In his ninth year lecturing at the PreGel 5-Star Pastry Series®, Chef Michael Laiskonis, creative director at the Institute of Culinary Education, New York City, fascinated attendees with his extensive knowledge of chocolate. He showcased mono portions and verrines as well as a variety of bonbons and confections that incorporated the chocolate produced in class.
The “All Things Chocolate: Bean to Dessert” seminar began with an in-depth lecture covering the science behind bean-to-bar chocolate production. Chef Laiskonis educated the class about cocoa farms and how cocoa pods are grown and harvested. The attendees continued with scaling the items for each recipe and working alongside Chef Laiskonis while soaking in as much information as they could.
Chef Laiskonis pre-roasted, shelled, and broke down Dominican Republic and Ugandan cocoa beans. He then added them to a chocolate refiner where they stayed for 24 hours to achieve a completely smooth texture and develop stronger flavor profiles. The attendees were blown away by Chef Laiskonis’ talent, experience, and scientific understanding of chocolate.
The chefs arrived from different locations in North Carolina as well as Ohio and Puerto Rico, representing restaurants, country clubs, bakeries, and universities. The 3-day class finished with a large buffet of pastries and confections that each included the bean-to-bar chocolate prepared in class. Overall, the class was extraordinary and attendees left eager to incorporate their new knowledge of chocolate into their present work.
“Meeting Chef Laiskonis was a huge honor and getting to receive so much information from him in such an intimate class size was amazing. I took so many valuable notes that I will be able to take with me for always. Thank you Chef Laiskonis and the wonderful PreGel staff.” – Kallie Haines, assistant chef to the Executive Pastry Chef, The Ohio State University
“I have learned more than I thought possible over the last three days. Although, I also learned that I have an infinite amount of information ahead of me to learn.” Gene Phelps II, general manager, The Chocolate Cellar LLC.
“This class challenge led me to think outside the box and be aware of every ingredient and every step that chocolate goes.” – Gabriel Maysonet, pastry sous chef, Condodo Vanderbilt Hotel
“I cannot believe how much I learned, how many pastries Chef Laiskonis made in a few short days! He was so informed, yet approachable. I would definitely recommend his class to anyone!” – Zibaa Sammandler, pastry chef, Aziza Restaurant
“Great class. Thoroughly enjoyed first the lectures and the techniques as well.” Anthony Rizzo, executive chef, Two Rivers Country Club, Williamsburg, VA
“This is my first 5-Star pastry class I had the privilege to attend. The class was very thorough and inspiring. I’ve learned and I revived a passion to further understand my ingredients and how it works. I plan on attending more classes.” – Bouavanh Southivorarat, pastry chef, Southminster
“Although only able to attend one day of the seminar, it was thoroughly educational, entertaining, and fun.” Michael McCarthy, pastry sous chef, Mohegan Sun
“Class was very informative and insightful. I am more of a savory food chef, but wanted to learn more of trends, and everyone’s favorite chocolate. I will incorporate ideas and knowledge to help me and my area grow.” Roger Garland, executive chef, The Ohio State University